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The Investigator
Your exclusive guide to the best journalism in Pa.
September 12, 2019 | spotlightpa.org
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Welcome to Spotlight PA's weekly newsletter, a premium look inside our newsroom, state government and the best journalism across Pennsylvania.
The long and short
» Behind-the-scenes of our reporting on problems with the state nursing board
» Meet Aneri Pattani, an investigative reporter focused on health and human rights
» A roundup of the most important journalism across the state — without all the noise
» Solve our weekly Riddler puzzle and send us your answer for a chance at cool swag
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“Truly terrible.”

— Nicole Hatem, 27, a nurse from Pittsburgh, on dealing with the Pa. nursing board.
Long delays, dead phone lines and rude responses
That's how nurses across Pennsylvania describe their interactions with the state Board of Nursing, which is responsible for licensing and oversight. Reporter Sara Simon takes you behind the scenes of Spotlight PA's first story.
Lauren Narbey, a 31-year-old certified nurse-midwife in Pittsburgh, most recently filed for a new license from a state nursing board in July and is still waiting for a response. (Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette)
I’ve got to come clean.

When Spotlight PA asked me to report on state licensing boards, I felt entirely overwhelmed. I’m a numbers person, so let’s break it down:

Pennsylvania has 29 boards that meet regularly. Together, they issue 255 different types of licenses. Licensed workers in the state, from barbers to auctioneers to funeral directors, number more than one million.

Where to start?

I began with the Board of Nursing, but immediately hit a snag. The summaries of their meetings from the past year were missing online. I sent an email. After days with no response, I called. The line seemed to disconnect.

The deeper I dug, the more I heard from nurses who had been struggling to reach the board for years. They reported long delays in getting license approvals, being left on hold for hours and sometimes rude responses from board officials.

In the hours after my story published, I heard from even more nurses. Here's a note from Mary Ann Barrow, a registered nurse in Glen Mills who tried to renew her license only two days ago:

“The site was so slow that I logged off and back on 8 times before it finally let me complete my renewal application.”

Stories like Mary Ann's show why licensing boards matter, how much they affect the lives of people across the state and why they deserve more scrutiny. I'm eager to keep digging.
If you have information or tips about any of Pennsylvania's licensing boards, email me at ssimon@spotlightpa.org.

— Sara Simon
Show your support today for accountability journalism like Sara's report on the nursing board and help us hold the powerful to account at spotlightpa.org/donate.
Meet our team
Meet our investigative reporters and find out what they're doing to ensure your tax dollars are well spent and your government is serving the people.
Aneri Pattani
Investigative Reporter

What she covers: Health, mental health, housing, the aging and issues related to drugs and alcohol.
Until a few years ago, I thought health stories were boring — lawmakers debating esoteric policy or insurers battling over prices. How did that affect my day-to-day life?

But then I saw suicidal students on my campus and at colleges across the country struggling to get mental health services. I met a 4-year-old boy in New York who had speech delays because of lead paint in his apartment. I spoke with teens who couldn’t afford pads and tampons during their periods.

That’s when it hit me: health issues are all around, and they touch everyone I care about. So that’s the lens I try to use in writing about health: Whose family member is not getting the care they need? Whose friend is suffering because of negligence or greed?

I want to hear from parents, teachers, advocates, healthcare providers and more about the way you’re seeing health issues play out in your daily lives.
Email Aneri at apattani@spotlightpa.org or reach her by call/text at 267-908-0597. For more secure ways to send tips to our team, visit spotlightpa.org/tips.
Only the best
We're cutting through the news each week to give you a premium collection of the most important journalism from across Pennsylvania.

Police brass, city lawyers are outmatched trying to deal with Philly’s problem cops

Once-secret records show how the police arbitration system overturned the firings or discipline of more than 100 officers.


How did fracking contaminants end up in the Monongahela River?

A loophole in the law might be to blame.

» Pa. governments that don't take public records law seriously should pay a price
» Ever seen "V-Toll" violations on your E-Z Pass statement? You should check.
» Election security hawks blast Pa. state department over voting machine review
» Legal team that fought gerrymandering in Pa. just won again — in N.C.
» After fire, Philly refinery paid execs $4.6 million while laying off workers
» Teachers' union investigating possible cancer link to asbestos in Philly schools
» Post-Gazette donated its Pulitzer Prize winnings to the Tree of Life Congregation
» Happy birthday to our partners at PA Post, which turned 1 year old this week

Our weekly puzzle from The Investigator. Send your answers to newsletters@spotlightpa.org for a chance to receive a shout-out here and some cool Spotlight PA swag.
The Poison Bar (Case No. 1): Customers have been getting sick from a poison at a local bar. When investigators pulled the records on their orders, they found no link between the kind of alcohol or mixer ordered and those who got sick. Not everyone who buys a drink at the bar gets sick. And there's no evidence bartenders or servers are slipping in the poison while making the drink.

Why are some, but not all, of the customers getting poisoned from their drinks?

Stumped? Get a hint.

Stay tuned next week for those who answered correctly as well as our winner.
We depend on you
Our investigative newsroom is funded by nonprofit foundations and people like you who value hard-hitting, nonpartisan journalism that cuts through the noise and gets to the truth. This work takes enormous time and resources to produce. We know you value this work and we ask for your support so we can continue to provide the journalism you deserve. Make a tax-deductible contribution right now and show your support for our team of reporters.

Together, we can hold the powerful to account.
» This week's Riddler hint: How do you take it?
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Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with the PIttsburgh Post-Gazette and PennLive/Patriot-News. All donations for Spotlight PA are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law and go to the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, which directs the money to Spotlight PA through The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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